August 11, 2021

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows

by Laura Sebastian

Published July 6, 2021
by Ace Books

Rating: 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Fantasy

About Half Sick of Shadows

Laura Sebastian’s Half Sick of Shadows is an Arthurian retelling told from Elaine, Lady of Shalott’s POV. No lovely but helpless Elaine in this story, dying of unrequited love for Lancelot as she does in Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott.”

Sebastian’s Elaine grows up in Uther’s Camelot, dosed with potions to keep the Sight at bay by her half-mad mother. Elaine’s friendless, bullied by Morgause. Until Morgana, Morgause’s twin from Avalon visits Camelot and convinces Elaine to return with her.

In Avalon, under Nimue’s tutelage, Elaine learns to use her gift. She also meets Lancelot, Guinevere, and Arthur. All of them play a part in Nimue’s plan to unite Avalon, land of the fey and magic, with Camelot and Albion, land of mortals who fear magic and magic users.

My thoughts about Half Sick of Shadows

The author pulls off the difficult task of telling Elaine’s story in the present, flashbacks, and her visions which tell different, sometimes conflicting possible futures. She also gives each of the five well-rounded characters with individual desires and purposes.

The difficulty with retellings is to make them interesting because the reader already knows the bones of the story. I loved this Guinevere – almost feral, a warrior with magic and a kingdom of her own. Morgana, who loves her younger half-brother and is willing to sacrifice everything to see him crowned king. And Elaine, not just a pretty Lily Maid fated to drown but smart, loving and resolute. She’s Arthur’s most trusted advisor.

This managed to feel both true to the source material but also made it feel contemporary where women are more than just sorceresses or prizes to be won.

There’s still Mordred, this time Arthur’s half-brother instead of his son. But still, he’s plotting Arthur’s downfall.

In conclusion

Half Sick of Shadows is a fantastic reimagining of the King Arthur story that focuses on three of the women – Elaine, Guinevere, and Morgana. These are strong, imperfect, powerful women – not the seductresses or prizes of the source material.

Thank you NetGalley and Ace for the ARC.

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